Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Work Where You Work Best

Summers can be a bit lonely at universities. Without the hustle and bustle of thousands of undergrads to keep things looking and feeling busy, and with many faculty working from home or taking vacations, the halls can seem awfully empty.

That's one of the biggest reasons that I rarely came to campus during the first summer of my Masters. I tried to at first, and I can still remember a prof asking, "What are you doing here? It's summer!" Because I found I didn't enjoy the commute to campus anyway, I just worked from home.

But there was a downside to doing so. It wasn't that I got easily distracted by TV and other pleasantries; it was that everyone else assumed that if I was home, I must have time to do this, that, and the other thing. I also found that I just wasn't as effective doing certain things at home as I was at school.

This is the first summer of my PhD. I learned a lot from doing my Masters, and this is one lesson that has made me more productive than ever: I had to figure out where I work best for what task, and when that means I'm at home, I don't let anyone pull me away.

You see, there are certain activities I can do much more easily at home. Anything creativity-oriented, for example. Like game design: I just can't seem to do much of it at school. In the lab, I sit, stare at the screen, and feel tired and uncomfortable. Funnily enough, the same is true at home when I'm working on a more literature-oriented project and have to do lots of online searching. It also seems that I'm most comfortable sitting and coding for hours on end while at school.

Succeeding in working where I work best is easiest when I have multiple projects on the go. That way I can work on whatever my focus will allow me in my current setting. (Be careful, though - too many projects can lead to not getting very far on any of them!)

Give it a try. Figure out what types of activities are best for what settings, and don't fight it. Your productivity will thank you.


Unknown said...

Good point! I love writing/reading papers at home (in bed works best for me for some reason :P) and coding happens best at school... esp. late at night. I think if I try to code late at night at home, I just fall asleep :P Nice advice!

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